Bill Clinton photo

Remarks Announcing White House Staff Changes and an Exchange With Reporters

May 29, 1993

The President. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. The objective of this White House and everyone who works in it is to improve the lives of the American people and to change their lives for the better. We have been working on that from the beginning. It takes the right people and the right organization to achieve those objectives. For the last several weeks the Chief of Staff Mack McLarty has been working to make appropriate changes in the White House to strengthen our ability to do our job for the American people.

I am pleased today to welcome to the White House staff one of the Nation's most respected journalists and commentators, David Gergen. I have known David for many years. He is a trusted friend and a dedicated public servant. By agreeing to accept Mack McLarty's invitation to join the White House team he is demonstrating one of the qualities for which he is well known, a sense of patriotism that transcends partisanship.

David Gergen is a Republican, as well as a longtime friend of mine. He is a moderate, prochange, patriotic American. We have shared many ideas over the years and found much agreement in the work I have done as Governor and with the Democratic Leadership Council and in many of the ideas I espoused in the campaign of 1992. I want him to help me make those ideas a reality in the lives of the American people.

The message here is that we are rising above politics. We are going beyond the partisanship that damaged this country so badly in the last several years to search for new ideas, a new common ground, a new national unity.

I am also announcing that my longtime and trusted aide George Stephanopoulos will be working with me more closely, as he did in the campaign, on important matters of policy and strategy and day-to-day decisionmaking, helping me to integrate all the complicated debates that confront my Office. One of the reasons for this move is that I have missed very badly and I have needed the kind of contact and support that I received from George in the campaign, that I think was absolutely essential to the victory that was secured.

I'd now like to introduce the Chief of Staff and thank Mack McLarty for all the hard work that he has been doing, especially in the last few weeks, to try to strengthen the White House and make it able to do the things that we pledged to do for the American people. Mr. McLarty.

[At this point, Thomas McLarty, David Gergen, and George Stephanopoulos made statements in support of the changes' in the White House staff.]

White House Staff

Q. Mr. President, the decision to bring in a Republican for this key position, does this mean you're going back to your centrist or New Democrat roots that you articulated during the campaign? And what does it mean about some of the more controversial decisions recently that suggested you were moving towards the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party, specifically your civil rights Assistant Attorney General nominee Lani Guinier? Do you still want her to become the Assistant Attorney General for civil rights?

The President. Today I want to talk about David Gergen, George Stephanopoulos, and the White House staff. The announcement that I have made today with Mr. McLarty—it was really his idea; I want to give him the credit for it; I wish it had been mine, but it wasn't-signals to the American people where I am, what I believe, and what I'm going to do.

I did not get into this race for President to divide the American people. I got into the race to unite the American people and to move this country forward. I have always, throughout my public life, had supporters who were independents, who were Republicans, who were interested in ideas and movement and not in partisan gridlock and moving the American people apart. That's what I'm trying to do. That's what I've always wanted to do. And that's what this announcement today means.

President's Priorities

Q. Mr. President, Mr. Gergen talked about scorching partisanship on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in this town. He said that four of the five last Presidents have been broken by the weight of the office that you now hold. Do you feel that you're at that point? Do you feel the weight? And do you feel there's a chance that you, too, could be broken by it?

The President. I don't know about the weight. I feel the responsibility. I have made a deliberate decision to move rapidly to do things which I think need to be done which have been neglected, and to push the agenda forward, especially on the budget. And as you know, we're moving forward in a record pace now with a very tough and difficult set of choices for the American people that I think will allow us to reclaim our destiny.

I believe that, when the history of this administration is written, we will look back and see that taking on the tough decisions early was the right decision for the people of this country. But I have been very concerned that the cumulative effect of some of the things which are now very much in the news has given to the administration a tinge that is too partisan and not connected to the mainstream, prochange, future-oriented politics and policies that I ran for President to implement. And that's what I want to do.

I think that this will help me to be a successful President. But the issue is not whether I'll be a successful President, it's whether we'll have a successful country. And I believe we will. And I think this is one big step toward that today.

Improving Communication

Q. Mr. President, with your public opinion polls fairly low right now, does this change suggest an inability to get your message out so far, or change it?

The President. I don't think that anybody would be surprised to admit that the major work of this administration and the passionate concerns of this administration are not always the things which come to mind in what's being communicated to the American people. So do we want to improve our ability to communicate what we believe and what we're doing? Yes, we do.

When I had the nationally televised town hall meeting here last week and all those people came up to me and said afterward how much better they felt about their country having been here and having had a personal conversation, knowing exactly where I and where my administration is coming from, what our values and objectives are, it made it utterly clear to me that if the American people knew exactly what we were doing, just like they did on the night of February 17th, they would support these tough decisions and these difficult changes.

On the other hand, I think it unrealistic ever to assume you can take on the kind of challenges that we are trying to take on without having some momentary bumps and runs in the public opinion polls. We can't be governed by that. But what I want to know is that the American people at least know me, know who I am, where I'm coming from, and more importantly, know what our administration is about. Then whatever their opinions in the polls will be will actively reflect the reality of who we are and their judgment about it. That's all I want. And I think that's what the communications can do.

President's Priorities

Q. Mr. President, you've made much of cutting the White House staff in an effort to reduce Government spending. With the addition of Mr. Gergen and the rumored addition of others, doesn't that seem out of keeping with a leaner White House staff?.

The President. The White House staff is going to be much leaner than it was before, but the number one task that I have is to serve the American people. Let me just give you an example. One of the things we never could have anticipated is that we'd get more mail here in 3 1/2 months than the White House did in all of 1992.

I am cutting the Federal Government. I am cutting the White House staff. We are doing that. But I think our number one objective is to serve the American people well. And that's what we're trying to do.

I have got to go to West Point. I am going to be late, and that would be a terrible mistake. I owe it to the graduating seniors at West Point to get them off on their military careers on time. I'm sorry.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 7:30 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Announcing White House Staff Changes and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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